What I Have Learned from My Marriages Mistakes

Horse-Couple-picspaper-com-600x375

When hurt gets in the way we tend to lean towards meanness, deniability, and even spite, but I have found after three Divorces that taking that route is waste of time and the negativity that comes with it can damage oneself not only mentally, but physically as well.

The keys to a successful relationship comes from focusing on the positive during the demise of the previous one. I find that letting the past be the past, and looking towards what lies ahead is what will allow me to be healthy. One of my favorite works that I have seen come through the social media feeds is “An Open Letter to My Ex-Wife: I Thought You Were the Most Beautiful Thing in the World” which stemmed from the original post by the Author Anthony Joseph D’Ambrisio entitled “Thoughts“. There is just something that every person goes through when losing a loved one, and divorce is definitely a process of losing a loved one. Anthony’s words greatly display what we all go through when Divorcing, so much so that it sparked me to look into my own self during my own process.

Now that I am heading into a relationship after divorcing for the third time, I have devised a list of rules and idioms for myself to follow that could lead to a more healthy outcome. Some are based on what I have found in myself, and some from what I have learned from my past marriages. Both have added up to rules I live by as I continue to grow in my life.

  1. Define Limits

    Before even considering getting into a relationship understand where your limits are and stick to them. If you know that you are a person that needs companionship and that constant attention, then recognize you need someone in your life that will be there when you need them. If you have been hurt in the past and have trouble with trusting your partner, then know that you should be with someone you can trust.

    It’s about owning your own boundaries and knowing what your issues might me coming into the relationship. This will help you to build a solid foundation that you and your new partner can work from.

  2. Be Prepared to Walk Away

    Understanding your limits are only effective when you are willing to enforce them. We’ve all seen the romantic movie where man and woman fall in love, then one of them makes a mistake breaking the other’s trust somehow. The two break up for a while until the one that made the mistake convinces the other to forgive them and they live happily ever after. If only a team of writers could come up with an entertaining plot filled with cute scenes and romantic moments all ending with the bog kiss at sunset with hopes and dreams of forever happiness. But that’s not real life. Breaking of trust or damaging others around ones self are both issues that are virtually impossible to get over even with the help of a licensed professional. Whether you need to be able to care for yourself financially, or be emotionally prepared to be on your own, stopping damage before it can get really bad will help you to be healthier in the long term. No matter how invested you are in the relationship, it’s good to be prepared to walk away from it before going down a path that will cause more hurt in the end.

    My past Step-Father had said to my Husband during his divorce before marrying me “I’m proud of you for having the strength to do what I could not.” Walking away from anything seems like the hardest thing anyone can go through, but in reality a lifetime of being hurt is more damaging and harder that taking the immediate “easy route”.

  3. Think Things Through

    New love is exciting. Jumping into relationships are fun and being loved is the best feeling anyone can experience, but we can often get lost in the fantasy of it all and not see the reality clearly. While you are high on the drug of love, step back as often as you can and look at where you are from a different perspective. If stepping back is difficult to do, try asking your friends for their honest opinion of the person. If you find yourself say “Yeah, but…” followed with a tidbit of your partner’s past or perhaps a short explanation as to why the person may be seeing what they are seeing, then stop yourself and think about why you are bringing that explanation up. Allowing yourself to excuse behavior or jump into a relationship quickly could potentially end up in pain and despair. If you decide to continue, I defer to #2 on this list: Be prepared to walk away.

  4. We Aren’t Always Happy

    perfect-coupleIf only we could be The Stepford Wives, happy spouses who never let anything get to us. That’s just not how the world is. From the drive through traffic, a bad day at work, or something someone said that triggered a horrible memory, our emotions can get the better of us. The key to dealing with the unhappiness is to recognize it and deal with the cause effectively, don’t stuff it away. One of my many therapists in my past once said “Anger is just a symptom of another emotion”. Anger, more often than not, is concealing something that lies much deeper.

    …what I’ve learned to ask myself is not simply, “What anger control skills does this person need to learn?” but rather, “What is this person’s anger enabling, protecting against, or symptomatic of?” For if there is such a thing as a tip-of-the-iceberg emotion, surely it is anger—the feeling that can conceal so very much below it—that best fits the bill.

    When you are feeling angry, look at yourself and try to understand what it is exactly that is causing it, and by no means should you try to lock it away or get over it. Allow yourself to feel whatever it is you are feeling and do your best to work through the emotion. If your partner is escalating the anger, then ask them for space while you calm yourself down or explain to them what it is you are feeling and what might have triggered it. You are responsible for your own happiness.

  5. Don’t let the little stuff get to you

    Remember that the person you are with is the person you fell in love with. Dirty socks on the floor, or chewing gum with their mouth open, are all such little annoyances that really are just little. I read an article many years ago (before the internet) where the female author talked about a rug that had fringe on it she had in her hallway. The fringe was often messed up by the kids, the dog, her Husband, and even people that came over to visit. She was constantly fixing the fringe only to find it getting messed up soon after. She found herself blowing up at the kids and her Husband for messing up the fringe. She suddenly realized that it wasn’t her family or anyone else that was causing her to get frustrated, or angry – it was her problem, and her problem only. She was the only one that wanted the fringe to lay the way she wanted it to lay, and it wasn’t as important to others.

    That article can resonate with even the best of us. So the next time you get upset that the dishes are piling up in the sink, just do them, it’s not that big of a deal. If you find yourself repeatedly doing dishes and not getting help, then talk to the people (Partner or Roommate) that are supposed to be helping. If they don’t sympathize and help out, well then perhaps it’s time to defer to #1 and #2.

  6. Think Before Making Decisions

    Now that you are in a relationship, there are more people to consider than yourself when making decisions. When we are on our own, we have the freedom to make decisions, be spontaneous, and take risks without affecting the others around us. All of the changes when we connect ourselves to another person.

    “Because our relationships form such a critical fabric of our lives, it’s not only impossible to make a big decision without thinking of others, but it can be downright unhealthy,” said Holly Parker, a lecturer of psychology at Harvard University. “What ultimately matters is how much we allow others to impact our decision and why.”

    This, of course, does not mean you should check with your new partner every time you need to make a decision, all the way down to “Should I be buying that new dress?”, but it does mean you should consider them in all major life choices. Just as #3 says to think things through, it’s also good to take a moment and consider all the options, talk with your new partner, and really think things through before you make that final decision.mistake

  7. Don’t Make Mistakes

    Now I know can’t all be perfect, but we can do our best not to screw up. I say “Don’t make mistakes” because, just as in #6, you want to always consider that you’re life now involves another person. Just as you should consider their input when making decisions, making mistakes can deeply affect them and your relationship. It can be something as extreme as putting yourself into a situation where you might be tempted to be unfaithful, or perhaps something as simple as spending a few dollars when you don’t have money to spend, these common mistakes can really damage a relationship. Your partner may be very forgiving, but this all can pile up and show them that you can’t be trusted.
    Do your best to make the right decisions, don’t put yourself in situations that can put you at risk of making a mistake. If you have a weakness, an addiction, or a known issue that can cause you to make mistakes then do your best to ensure you don’t go down that road. Outside help, therapy, or even rehab are all ways in which you can get the help to not make any big mistakes that could potentially damage your relationship.

  8. After an Argument Don’t Dwell On What Your Partner Did

    We all argue, it happens. Healthy arguing is one of the many keys to a successful relationship. A good rule to live by is to avoid dwelling on the argument, or what your partner might have done to cause it, why they started it, or what they said and did during the argument. Dwelling on these things can only add more negative energy to what you are already experiencing, and that is just counterproductive. Instead, try learning from the argument. Reflect on your part in the situation, what you did, said, and why your partner might be upset. If you feel you need to discuss it, if your partner can be receptive of discussing it productively without getting emotional again, then try talking with them again. I have a bit of a rule that lies within this rule: “When the argument is about the argument, then the relationship is over.” recycling and circling back through what was said, or what was done during the argument is a never ending cycle. If you find you and your partner heading in that direction quickly stop if you can, and leave it for another time. If possible, get outside help either for yourself or you and your partner to effectively work through everything. I’ll also defer to #4 and #5 – by allowing ourselves to dwell on the little things, or allow our anger to take over then we end up in unhealthy relationships. Instead, look into yourself and learn from all that you can so that you can move onto becoming a more healthy individual.

  9. Remember We Say Things We Don’t Mean When Upset

    Just as you would hope that your partner understand you didn’t mean to call them a B word or A word, your partner could benefit form you giving the the same consideration. Of course we don’t want things to get out of hand, so if you find your partner attacking your character or using your insecurities to hurt you, or perhaps something even worse, then I would defer to #1 and possibly #2. Though if you can find yourself forgiving your partner it is a powerful choice you can make when it’s right for you that can lead to greater well-being and better relationships.

  10. Don’t Say Anything You Might Regret

    Just as you should forgive your partner for anything said that could have hurt you without the sole intention to harm, using words to harm your partner can be damaging. At times, an argument can escalate to that place where you and your partner are saying things that cause harm, intentional or not. Try to keep a level head about you and don’t go there, even if your partner is. I highly recommend reading my post talking about the argument serving a purpose. If your partner isn’t following the respect to arguing productively, and you are, then you can always get help. If not, then again, I’ll defer to #1 and #2. Babe Ruth And Lou Gehrig

The point of my list has given me the ability to attempt to be in a healthy relationship, the strength to leave if the relationship isn’t healthy, and to allow myself to be the best partner I can be in the future. We all aren’t perfect, of course, but trying is all we can expect of ourselves. Of course we’re going to slip up, and so are our partners, but if you both can come back around and work together then I truly believe there is hope for a lasting relationship. Yes, even after Divorcing for the third time I do have hope that there is a chance at a stable and healthy relationship.

I’m Divorcing… for the Third Time

Robert_Conway

If you have read my last post, I’m sure two things immediately come to mind:

  1. It was written over a year ago.
  2. It is great advice for couples.

Yes, I haven’t posted for over a year. I really don’t get a chance to post to the blog often, and also mainly due to the fact that in April of last year (2014) I began to see my Husband and I pulling away much more than usual and given the last post being great advice for couples, I felt awkward about saying anything to anyone (especially on my blog) while going through such a hard time. After being laid off from my job in CA in May and immediately finding a new job in CA, he and I spent some time in Cancun, Mexico rekindling some old passions.Robert Conway and Jenn Mathews But sadly, it was a complete bust – it was clear to me that he was not happy with me. The trip was full of disappointments, anger, and frustration. After our trip he returned to our place in Seattle to pick up his son, and bring him to CA to spend with me for a couple of weeks. I had asked him to cancel their flights (especially since his Father was very ill, and he needed to be with him), but he insisted on flying down.

On July 4th (3 days after they had arrived) he had gotten very angry during one of our usual bike rides over a petty remark on my part, and after quite a flow of anger and resentment over our years together he said he wanted to Divorce. That moment hit me like a ton of bricks. We had both said it many times during our marriage to one another, myself even to the point where I took a job in San Francisco, CA and he stayed in Seattle for 2 years, but I wasn’t prepared for the actual straw that broke the Camel’s back that would lead him to arrive to the absolute decision that day.

As we rode back to the house from our 20 miles out on bikes along the San Francisco Bay, my head was racing. I wasn’t focusing with tears in my eyes and hit a curb and plummeted to the ground. I just laid there not wanting to move. After he encouraged me to go on, I rode the rest of the 20 miles back with a bum arm and my head teaming with thoughts of our life, love, and unhappiness filling my head.

When we arrived back at the house, I told him to book a flight for him and his son to go back to Seattle the next day. I couldn’t bear for them to stay the next week with knowing it was over. I hugged my step-son and told him I was sorry he wouldn’t get to go to NASA the next day, and told him one last time that I loved him and cared about him. We went from ignoring each other to occasional outbursts of frustration until he gathered his son and while heading out the door to watch the fire works said to me “Are you coming?”. My reply was “No” with a hint of confusion as to why he would even ask.

The next morning we went to breakfast, and one last time I picked up the bill for all three of us (no, he didn’t reach for the bill or offer to pay), then I dropped them off at the airport. My step-son got out of the car and hugged me. He hesitated closing the door (a vision in my head I will never forget) and when his Father yelled “Let’s go” he looked at me one last time and hesitantly closed the door. That was the last time I was to ever see him.

Hi Father had gotten better and worse throughout the following weeks and I finally made the move to Seattle to attempt to make the marriage work. I tried calling him, but he refused to talk to me for months, until finally in October there was a text from him with a “peace offering”. We had gone back and forth talking, not talking, yelling, being nice, talking, not talking. With us ending in not talking now after my Family was drug into it and  my relationship with my Brother now torn apart.

Divorce is ugly. Everyone will tell you that. Whether they have been through it, know someone that has, or have no experience with it whatsoever – every body knows how hard it is. Even after going through Divorce twice before, and as much as I wanted to several times with this one before, it was still very difficult. I am, however, very appreciative of my past experiences.  From the legalities of Divorce to the time and steps it takes for me to be able to heal emotionally, my experience has left it a bit easier to bear.

Rob ConwayWe met when my kids were in Daycare. My oldest was just 3 years old, and he was the Kindergarten teacher there. The first day we had a lengthy conversation while I was picking up my kids after work, he mentioned Peace Corp and Africa. Despite another teacher mentioning his girlfriend during the same conversation, whom he lived with at the time, we both actively pursued each other. He proceeded to place me on a pedastal. From moments of looking around a restaurant and saying to me “You are the most beautiful woman in the room.” To writing me emails and handwritten letters detailing his desire for me. He even acted out the romantic scene of pebbles on my window in the middle of the night. But in-between the moments of romantic and obsession, there were times I was stood up for dates, and overnights cut short so he could be with another woman. We were later pulled apart while he moved to NY to pursue his Masters degree for 5 years, and I had met, married, and then Divorced another. His girlfriend he lived with went to NY with him and while he proceeded to repeat his lustful pattern of behavior with many women there, she eventually married him and they had a son together.

After he moved back to Seattle we had connected again. I was living alone with my two kids very happily, and he was still married with his son. I was placed back up on that pedestal with emails, text messages, and hand written letters with details of the love and passion he felt for me. I craved and desired the attention after a loveless marriage and wishy-washy divorce. While I was financially stable with a condo in a nice neighborhood and good career, he provided me with everything I craved emotionally.

As time went by and his divorce from his wife finalized, we married. Then down from the pedestal I fell. Soon I became the the tossed aside wife that his wife was before and he lusted for another woman to worship. Anger and frustration grew over his working until 10pm during the week and my draining the finances for a business that wasn’t going to work (of course it’s more complicated than that, but those were the two biggest issues we had with one another). I eventually accepted a position in CA after he insisted I get a job, leaving him with my two kids to finish out the 2 months of school. He resented me for leaving, and especially leaving him with 2 fighting teenagers that weren’t his own. We went through the cycle of wanting to divorce to making up in a few months and eventually worked to make a long distance relationship successful. At times I was very proud at how healthy our relationship was despite the past issues and distance between us.

But in the end, it was just not meant to be. I could save face and say how horrible he is as a man and a Husband, that I am happy for this divorce, that I am better off, and trash his complete character to make me feel better. But the fact is that I didn’t want the divorce and truthfully wanted so badly to make it work. I cared for him deeply, and his son even more than anything. I found out later that he had cheated on me again, which put the nail in the coffin for me. I still am reluctant about going through with the divorce, but know that there is no way he and I could be together again after so much pain and hurt. I would never trust what he (and sadly any man) would say to me to try and build me up. I am sure, in return, that finances and any decision I were to make would be met with anxiety and reluctance on his side because of what I had done to our marriage.

So what I am doing now is accepting the situation and knowing it could not, should not, and will not ever change. Things will never go back to the way they were those first years we were together, no matter how much I wished they could. I fully embrace my life as it is now every day. I am doing things that bring me happiness that I know he would never have approved of. As of this moment I am so happy and fulfilled that my life feels more complete than it has ever before.

I now end each day spending a quiet moment in the evening appreciating 2-3 things that happened throughout my day that I would not have been able to do with him. I am embracing the simple things of getting to be on my own. I have an apartment I absolutely love living in, the companionship of my dog and cat (with the added Hamster I know he wouldn’t have liked), and spend my day with my children outside with our horses.

I date men (outside of my designated booty call) when I have time, but realize, when I do, that I am really not ready. I feel that I am not ready because I enjoy being my own best friend and love the relationship I have with myself. I am hoping that it’s not because I am “ruined” or “damaged” in some way due to my failed three marriages.

I decided it’s time to write about this now because, well, I knew I needed to write about it after my last post on arguing productively, and because the final papers were signed last week which has been a sense of finality for me. I can go days without thinking about him or the marriage without some sort of emotion surfacing. In fact now I go weeks without a thought to it all until I suddenly go “oh yeah…”. I talk about my time while with him without him being mentioned in my stories, and the kids now are truly enjoying being a family of three once again.

Will I get married again? I don’t know.

I want to say “Never again” but I said that the last two divorces and that didn’t hold. It’s kind of like my fear of children. While I am terrified of most, some are OK and some I really adore (like my own). I do know this: I will not allow another man to convince me to change anything about me or my life. I will not allow them to pick me apart or make me feel guilty for mistakes I have made, or decisions I make. I most certainly will not consider anyone but myself and my children when it comes to decisions, and if the man chooses to stick around then it is up to him. While that may not seem fair, unfortunately it is the way I have become. No amount of anger, guilt, or “compromise” from another will sway my decision making or life choices.

At this moment I can’t stress how at peace I am. I almost feel like a broken record, or worry at times that I am saying it so much that I am trying to convince myself that I am happy. But in all honesty things are going very well. If I had one complaint it’s that my car’s check engine light came on today, and money is tight. Oh, and that the movers that brought my stuff up from CA misplaced most of my things and after I did finally get them (from the help of a stranger) I received my jewelry box that was busted open and my Grandmother’s diamonds and jewelry was stolen out of it.

But really – all of that pales to the good that is going on at the moment. I am back riding horses again after 20 years of what I consider “taking a break”. I have lost 40 pounds since the divorce. I am turning my consulting work I have been doing into a full on company complete with business partners and staff. I even have a friend that is buying himself a holistic pet food store (Yeah, a Pet Store) and I am having a lot of fun talking with him about it. Heck, I might even get to work on the website and marketing for it. My relationship with my Daughter is stronger than ever. We talk about life, relationships, friends, and goals. My children and I had a lengthy discussion over the Holidays with them hashing out their issues, and now their relationship has been the best it has ever been (meaning they aren’t trying to kill each other anymore). The horses has allowed us all three to spend time outdoors every day – weekends all day, and weekdays I pick them up after school and spend a couple of hours together. Yup – life is good, and I’m truly enjoying it all!

today-is-the-first1